Pakistan‘s Supreme Court ordered the release of former Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday, two days after his arrest sparked violent nationwide protests.
Khan was ordered to remain in the custody of the court under police protection for his own safety until his appearance at another court hearing on Friday.
“Your arrest was invalid so the whole process needs to be backtracked,” chief justice Umar Ata Bandial told Khan at the hearing in the capital Islamabad.
Bandial denied Khan’s request to return to his farmhouse on the outskirts of Islamabad.
After Bandial passed the order, Khan asked his supporters to remain peaceful and said “no harm should be caused to the country”.
“We only want elections in the country,” Dawn quoted him as saying.
Supporters of the former leader could be seen dancing near the court building to celebrate the order for his release.
Pakistan’s top judge had ordered police to bring Khan before him in response to a petition by his political party challenging his arrest on Tuesday on corruption charges.
The order came two days after Khan’s arrest sparked nationwide violence which left at least eight people dead and dozens injured.
Hundreds of others were detained as supporters of the former prime minister were involved in the disorder.
Khan was arrested on Tuesday hours after the military rebuked him for alleging that a senior officer was involved in a plot to assassinate him.
The former cricketer was ousted in April last year in a no-confidence vote after he lost the support of Pakistan’s powerful military.
The former premier has said the dozens of legal cases brought against him following his removal are part of an effort by the government and the army to prevent him from returning to power ahead of elections due in the autumn.
Tensions remained high late on Thursday with paramilitary troops and police on the streets of the capital Islamabad.
Footage shared by an Islamabad police official showed military vehicles with mounted guns lined up on the side of a road andd soldiers holding assault rifles.